People like us…

A post for SYTYCB

Todd Akin showed that it is easy to combine victim blaming, ignorance and misogyny in one soundbite.

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said, referring to conception following a rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

The condemnation was fast enough to make him make that most mealy-mouthed of apologies. ”I mispoke.” Which basically means “It is what I think but I am deep doo doo now.”

The idea of legitimate rape is one that victims rights groups and people who have been raped, have to fight against. When I was young we used to get trotted by the nuns into the school hall once a year to watch the police Danger Stranger film. Quite frankly all it told me was to beware of posh people who glow red. Sadly for the family of Tia Sharpe her local police force seem to have seen the same film and searched in vain for a glowing man asking children to see his puppies rather than starting from the fact that a child is most likely to be harmed by a family member.

This idea of legitimate rape, the attack by a stranger, accompanied by violence, is deep-rooted, going as far back as the Old Testament, and of course completely insulting and harmful.It has informed much of the fury from the left and feminists against Akin.

Oddly though, there is another man who the left (or sections of it) are more than willing to defend, and their defence more often than not come down to “legitimate rape.” Yes, that’s right it is the inevitable Julian Assange blog.

Naomi Wolf has been very vocal in the it’s not really rape camp. I refuse to link to her as publicity  pays her bills. Google if you must. But she has not been alone in dismissing the experience of the women who have made the allegations. Helena Kennedy has added her voice to the fray. However even the Assange defence team have described the experiences of the two women in question thus;

“Nothing I say should be taken as denigrating the complainants, the genuineness of their feelings of regret, to trivialise their experience or to challenge whether they felt Assange’s conduct was disrespectful, discourteous, disturbing or even pushing at the boundaries of what they felt comfortable with.”

The not really rape camp also do not seem to have read this, again from the defence team;

The complainant] was lying on her back and Assange was on top of her … [she] felt that Assange wanted to insert his penis into her vagina directly, which she did not want since he was not wearing a condom … she therefore tried to turn her hips and squeeze her legs together in order to avoid a penetration … [she] tried several times to reach for a condom, which Assange had stopped her from doing by holding her arms and bending her legs open and trying to penetrate her with his penis without using a condom. [She] says that she felt about to cry since she was held down and could not reach a condom and felt this could end badly.”

Apologists would do well to read this translation of an interview with one of the women involved, and to keep in mind that in Sweden corroborating evidence that show a pattern of behavior is allowed, as is a rape complainant being allowewd support during interviews.

A quick look at the comments shows the Assange supporters quick to cry,” Ahh but it wasn’t real,”legitimate”, rape.

So why the difference in reaction, well as far as I can see it come down to that old human failing of believing that people like us behave in a certain way. It is exhibited in Churches, BDSM, across classes. People contine to delude themselves that because they share one hobby or value then they share all. Baku can’t be a rapist, he belongs to the kink community, Assange can’t be a rapist he leaked information about powerful governments. This view of the wold where good guys wear white hats and bad guys glow red traps us into ideas like legitimate rape, and believing that people who abuse are somehow “other.”

In the twenty-first century isn’t it time to move beyond the Victorian melodrama pattern of morality?

Many thanks to Student Activism for covering parts of the Assange case others seem to want to avoid andAnother Angry woman for her investigations into the Swedish laws on rape and sexual assault, as well as all her other excellent blogs.


Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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